It is only natural to compare a Minor League team to its Major League affiliate because the players on that junior squad could one day make it to the big club. What we don’t usually do is compare Minor League teams to the parent team’s crosstown rival.
But this year’s Cyclones and Yankees teams (yeah, that’s right, the one that plays in the Bronx) are so similar, we just had to point out their parallels.
The Cyclones season has mirrored the Yankees’ in the 2014, with both teams remaining at or around the .500 mark for most of the season and now in a position to battle for the final playoff berth in their respective leagues. Both teams have overcome injuries that have hurt the teams’ playoff chances, but not killed them. And both have had front offices savvy enough to make trade-deadline deals that brought in players who helped keep the teams in the running.
First, let’s start with the record. Both teams have not been under .500 since earlier in the season, and have hung around that mark for most of the year, with the Cyclones reaching a high-water mark of eight games over on Tuesday night. The Yankees, meanwhile, have been as high as seven games over a few times this season.
Both have had slumps and losing streaks, the Cyclones with an eight-game losing streak in mid-July that made it appear as if the season was over. The Yankees, meanwhile, have had five-game losing streaks in June, July, and August. Of course, those bad streaks have been balanced with winning streaks, as the Cyclones won five in a row at the end of July and the Yankees just ended a five-gamer this week.
Both teams have also had key players shut down for the season. Cyclones first baseman and clean-up hitter Michael Katz is out for the year because of knee surgery. Before the injury, Katz was batting .275 with nine doubles.
The Yankees, meanwhile, lost ace rookie pitcher and Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka to the disabled list in July, when he had already put up a 12–4 record with an earned-run average of 2.51. The loss of Tanaka was a major blow to the pitching rotation, especially since CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova are both out for the season, and Michael Pineda was lost for most the year.
To make up for those losses, the Yanks looked to the market and the minors, trading for Brandon McCarthy, who has gone 5–3 with a 2.47 earned-run average since coming over from Arizona, and Chris Capuano, who’s eaten up innings and performed well since coming over from the Rockies. The Yanks also dumped second baseman Brian Roberts and brought in Martin Prado, traded third-baseman Kelly Johnson to the Red Sox for shortstop Stephen Drew, and acquired Chase Headley from the Padres to solidify the infield.
The Cyclones, meanwhile, had to focus on hitting, as the team’s anemic lineup wasn’t giving its strong pitching staff any help.
That all changes with the acquisition of Mets first-round draft pick Michael Conforto — a move that was a stroke of genius. Since joining the team in the middle of July, Conforto is batting .307, and has seven doubles and an on-base percentage of .396. The Brooks front office also dipped into its minor league affiliate with the call up of lead-off hitter John Mora on Aug. 1 from the Gulf Coast Mets. Now, it’s (hopefully) off to the playoffs for both teams.